Mimi Sheraton has a “Talk of the Town” piece in this week’s New Yorker about chef James Kent’s preparations for January’s Bocuse d’Or. Kent, who is a sous-chef at Eleven Madison Park, will head up the American team for the renowned culinary competition. Monkfish and lamb are the mandatory ingredients for the five-and-a-half-hour competition, and Kent is currently refining his chosen preparations. In two weeks, he’ll head to the French Laundry in Napa, where he’ll work on the dishes with Thomas Keller.
On the phone today, Kent seemed happy about the New Yorker profile, pointing out the “pretty sweet” drawing of himself holding a monkfish that illustrates it. (Being the subject of a New Yorker caricature seems like a pretty good benchmark for making it big.)
As for the preparation so far, Kent says the planning and practicing have been rigorous. “Thomas Keller is very structured,” Kent said. “We’ve had meetings where we presented photos of the concepts, where we got the inspiration from, and we’ve narrowed it down to what we want to do. Now we’re working on the food. We’ve been cooking for the past two, three months, and we’re really close. Now it’s a matter of making everything perfect. And when we come back from the French Laundry, we start timed trials.”
How does the 31-year-old manage training for the Bocuse d’Or and his job at Eleven Madison Park? Kent says that chef Daniel Humm has been assigning certain extra duties, like creating special menus or planning out-of-state events, to other sous-chefs. “But as far as my daily duties, he [Humm] holds me to high standards.”